Ryan Prieto originally applied to the UNMA because he wanted to focus on human rights initiatives, specifically those tied to helping improve education globally. However, he soon realized that he needed to supplement the UNMA’s courses with relevant work experience in order to implement what he was learning in the UNMA. Fortunately, it was around the time of this realization that he got in contact with City Year New York, a non-profit focused on improving education throughout the city’s most under resourced areas.
"I began my work at City Year New York by training and networking alongside fellow City Year’s, eventually meeting my teammates and learning of our assignment at Dutch Kills Elementary School in Queens. It was at Dutch Kills Elementary School, during the day, that I assisted a third-grade classroom led by my partner teacher Ms. Nicole Chifriller. It was at that same school, by day’s end, that I collaborated with my teammates and my manager Mr. Yohimbe Sampson to design and maintain an after-school program for third through fifth graders. Throughout these first couple months I enjoyed helping each of these students not only improve in their academics but also their social and emotional skills.
Alas, my in-person work with the students was cut short when the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged the globe. There was a lot of uncertainty about what the role of City Year’s would be as our students transitioned into remote learning. Fortunately, our school integrated us into their google classrooms. In my google classroom I spent much time figuring out ways to adapt our classroom traditions for this online space. I then created google slides to encourage groups of students in complete their weekly assignments. After all, I remembered going through a simulation in my Theory of Military and Diplomatic Policy class which centered around a potential COVID-19 pandemic. In that class we web mapped all the different institutions and systems that would be affected, concluding that the best way to survive this pandemic would be to adapt from best practices. I never once lost my passion for helping my students, especially through these difficult times. At the end of the day I was rewarded with my students’ appreciation and multiple social media spotlights that I received from City Year New York through Twitter and Instagram.
Nevertheless, my work within New York City’s educational system is not finished. I am proud to say that I will be serving with this school for a second year. The COVID-19 pandemic has not subsided, so I have no intentions of leaving my students in such a crucial point in their lives. Additionally, I wanted to be there to continue mentoring future City Year’s. I mean, I had several mentors in my early days of the UNMA, many of which I relied on to help me strive for greatness. I imagine it will be the same for this incoming batch of City Years. I want to be there for them to use as a resource because the world’s education will not change without mentoring a coalition of diverse and bright people to have your back. I hope to see that aforementioned statement shine if I am ever fortunate enough to achieve my dreams for working for UNICEF."